Making feature films today may be a lot less expensive in terms of equipment, but this doesn’t mean one can stint on the quality of the cinematic storytelling. The microbudget film needs to be just as exciting and intriguing as a big budget film – perhaps even more so.
There is clearly no way that a micro-budget film can compete with a regular movie in terms of scale, stunts and special effects – not even even the use of grip equipment for that matter. Instead you must work within your limitations to make something with integrity on a tiny budget. This means not only writing the screenplay and planning the shoot to minimise shooting ratios, the number of scenes, and camera set-ups; but more importantly coming up with an appropriate camera system and shooting style that amplifies the themes of the film and makes it cinematically distinctive.
TIMELOCK works because we embraced the DSLR aesthetic from the film’s conception and made a micro-budget thriller that zags when you expect it to zig. While on a commercial level, the film works simply as tense and suspenseful entertainment; on a deeper level I believe it has something important to say about wasted lives and the secrets people keep from themselves. The main dramatic focus of the film is an existential battle of wits between two men who are ‘locked in time’ by past choices. Both central characters were ‘kidnapped’ by their own sense of failure long before they are thrust together in this kidnapping drama. So while kidnapper and kidnappee obviously find themselves in direct conflict with each other – a situation intensified after they realise they have met before – they also discover that they have shared emotional experiences. It is the friction between these push and pull factors that energises the narrative and drives it in unexpected directions. Though the plot of the film is clear and unambiguous, TIMELOCK does not present a simple picture of character development but rather asks the question: What does it take for a well-defended person to consider changing their attitude to life and to themselves?
The aim of any filmmaker should I believe be not only to create a beautiful narrative, but also to push the language of film and challenge the audience’s perceptions. For this reason I have chosen to deliberately move away from the usual British styles of naturalistic costume drama and social realism in favour of an energetic digital expressionism that makes a positive virtue of the DSLR and it’s ability to get up close to the actors. The aim here was to make the cinematic experience direct and noisy rather than unnecessarily controlled and wastefully elegant.
With its compromised characters and troubled pasts, TIMELOCK explores compelling existential themes relating to chance, consequence, choice and self-determination. The use of the first person narrative mode (with some notable, formal interventions) as well as the highly subjective – even claustrophobic – use of the DSLR which was always within the personal space of one or other of the main actors has the effect of drawing the audience ever deeper into the mind games being played. This in trun increases suspense regarding the outcome of their struggle.
TIMELOCK is not a film that allows the audience to submerge into the viewing experience, but rather seeks to subvert their relationship to the narrative. It is not a film that offers easy narrative answers, nor does it seek to be obscure and intellectually superior. This is an updated form of the aesthetic of the necessary that seeks to make the audience question not only the characters’ motivation and behaviour, but also social power structures and the audience’s own voyeuristic relationship to the cinematic experience and their own morality.